Prog rock band Papadosio set to play Town Ballroom
Bassist Rob McConnell discusses performing, creativity and life
On Friday Nov. 20, progressive rockers Papadosio will be taking the stage at Buffalo’s Town Ballroom. Originating in the college town of Athens, Ohio, Papadosio is now centered in North Carolina. Often described as “genre-bending,” they cite influences ranging from punk rock to jazz music.
The band’s fourth full-length studio album, Extras in a Movie, was released this October.
The Spectrum got the opportunity to talk to bassist Rob McConnell about life on the road, the creative process and the inspiration behind Papadosio’s music.
The Spectrum: Your latest album is titled Extras in a Movie, which you described as something of a conceptual album dealing with relationships. Tell me more about the concept behind the album.
Rob McConnell: If you think about it, you can think of every life as a movie and you can think of yourself as an extra in someone else’s movie. It’s important to realize that the movie you see in front of your eyes isn’t the only thing going on. It speaks to being aware of relationships and how your actions affect others and if someone is affecting your life in a negative way.
TS: The album art is stunning. How did it come together?
RM: Everybody had a bunch of ideas about what they wanted to see. It’s by Thomas Robertson Forrest. It was loosely based around a Genesis album called A Trick of the Tale, in which there’s a character from each album on the cover. We took that idea and put each character in context. There’s an old poster that my dad put in his house with all these idioms being acting out by these characters like ‘You are what you eat’ with a guy eating carrots. I took influence from psychedelic pop art.
TS: Papadosio has a reputation as a heavy-touring band. What's the hardest part of touring so extensively and how do you deal with it?
RM: I would probably say just keeping your ideas fresh. We make a lot of things up on the spot, a lot of improv. In the past we’ve played 12 shows in 13 days, and we still have to try to make it different each night. That’s really challenging to keep the energy level up. And the weather is constantly changing as you move across the country, which is a challenge in itself.
TS: Do you prefer playing festivals or smaller shows?
RM: Smaller shows for sure. First of all they usually sound better because you get a sound check and don’t feel as rushed. With a festival, some festivals are great, playing with 15,000 people. That’s awesome, a wonderful thing, but you don’t have all your gear sounding the way you want to. With venue shows, you have a sound check, all the amenities you’re used to having, a place to sit, etc.
TS: Was there a certain turning point in your career when you knew that Papadosio was going somewhere?
RM: No I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. I think we have to constantly work on being content in the now.
TS: If you could jam with one musician, living or dead, who would it be?
RM: For me, I’m a bass player, so I have to say John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. That would be a good choice. He’s got the coolest feel ever. I also think it would be really cool to jam in Ulrich Schnauss’ studio and jam. He has a cool crazy studio.
TS: Looking back on your career, do you feel differently about your early work than you did when you first started?
RM: Of course. Absolutely. Not necessarily in a bad way, but some of it is totally different.
TS: Music can have a real, meaningful impact on people. What would you like for people to get out of your music?
RM: Hmm…I don’t really write songs with lyrics in them too much so I don’t necessarily have a message in my songs but I want people to have a good time and smile and whatnot. In most of our songs, it boils down to this: love one another, take responsibility for your actions, respect and be conscious of the environment and be aware that the world doesn’t necessarily revolve around you. And be kind to everyone. That’s all we really have one this planet.
TS: What are your hobbies outside of music?
RM: We’re all into hiking. I like to cook and play basketball and I like to stay somewhat active.
TS: What drives you to devote yourself to music?
RM: We all love playing music more than anything else we could do in the world. It’s hard to tour because of lack of sleep, etc., but we all really love doing it, so that’s enough motivation and I think that same can be said for the other guys. We only get one go around here so we might as well see the world and play music. I can’t fathom a better way to spend the small amount of time we have on the planet.
Luke Heuskin is an arts staff writer. Arts desk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.